To maximise its potential as a Southern African hub, a massive infrastructure development drive is connecting Zambia up by land, air and even water like never before
When President Edgar Lungu’s government asked itself what the biggest constraint to growing exports and building a more diverse and sustainable economy was, there was one clear answer: infrastructure
So it went about fixing it.
Bordered by eight countries, Zambia’s location is enviable. The quest to leverage it and establish the country as a regional hub has led the government to undertake huge, focused infrastructure development. “Zambia is no longer landlocked, it is land-linked,” says minister of housing and infrastructure development, Ronald Kaoma Chitotela.
The work of the Road Development Agency (RDA) exemplifies the government’s targeted approach. Established in 2012, the Link Zambia 8000 programme zeroes in on 8,000 kilometres of the country’s 40,454km core road network. Under the current government, its rollout has been further refined to prioritise the most economically viable projects.
Completed stretches include the 171.9km Mbala-Nakonde road, which is now easing travel and trade near the Tanzanian border. Internationally focused links are a key part of the RDA’s strategy. Also in the works are the $200 million Kazungula Bridge Project at the Botswana border and the $1.2 billion Chinese-backed Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway to connect the capital with the Copperbelt mining region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Such foreign collaborations are key for tapping into global knowhow and financing these mega-projects, says the RDA’s CEO, Elias Mwape. “UK companies are very good at providing professional services such as road design, construction and supervision,” he adds.
State-owned company Zambia Railways could prove another target for British firms as it seeks $1.2 billion to recapitalise and upgrade its infrastructure. It’s already in conversation with several prospective investors, says MD Christopher Musonda.
Great change is already underway in the aviation sector. Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka is undergoing a $360 million upgrade to increase capacity to six million a year and turn it into a passenger hub for flights between Asia and the Americas, while over $400 million has been invested in the new Copperbelt airport.
“We are living at the best time in history in terms of aviation in this country,” says Robinson Misitala, MD of Zambia Airports Corporation.
With the nation’s sole port, Mpulungu Harbour on Lake Tanganyika, also scheduled for a major upgrade, Zambia’s reach is expanding – and with it, opportunities for citizens and investors.